This is the eighth installment in a series of articles highlighting Marines working aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany
Already having two older brothers in the Marine Corps, Staff Sgt. Latifah Blanks had a legacy to live up to when she joined the Corps in 2011.
The St. Louis native, currently serving as base adjutant chief, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina at the age of 20. It was an opportunity to see the world and gain some discipline, not her siblings, compelling her to become a Marine.
“We didn’t talk about the Marine Corps until I joined,” Blanks, speaking of family influence on the decision, said.
Blanks’ first station was in California. After that, she served with Marine Security Guard – a duty that took her to places such as Israel, West Africa and Albania.
“I enjoyed each country very much,” the staff sergeant said.
While serving her country overseas, Blanks was able to take leave and visit family and friends in a few more places. Among them were London, Berlin, Turkey and Nigeria. She has also met two sitting presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
“I got to see the world a bit,” she said. “I have gotten to see countries most people just talk about.”
Blanks said Marines can get a lot out of MCLB Albany due to its slower pace in comparison to other bases. She is being introduced to her military occupational specialty more here because she has time to re-learn it.
This is not to say she is bored. Much of her job involves handling military and civilian correspondence – including awards, records and promotions.
“Even though personnel is small, there is a lot of work,” Blanks said.
Blanks has a church home in Albany, and has volunteered to assist the southwest Georgia community in her spare time. She helped with clean-up after recent natural disaster events, and was involved with Mentors in Action for a semester.
She gained some perspective from her time with Mentors in Action, a program through which Marines check in on school-age children in the Albany area to see how they are doing and if they need help. It was launched in 2012 to foster mentorship development within Marines, while also building positive relationships in the community.
“Talking to high-schoolers, compared to when I was in high school, was different,” Blanks said.
The staff sergeant said it was an eye-opening experience showing her how youngsters view the world around them.
“There was an impact,” she said. “I persuade individuals to look outside Albany. Right now, this is all they know.”
The disaster clean-up experience Blanks has under her belt is not limited to her time in Albany. She saw wildfires at her California duty station.
In Albany, she has taken part in recovery efforts for others as well as herself.
“I am from the Midwest, so I have seen storms before,” she said. “We all came together; I learned how to use a chainsaw and invest in a wheelbarrow. Marines came out to help me clean out my yard, so I appreciated that.”
“We also helped the elderly,” she added.
Blanks said she has been motivated to do her best as a Marine because of the effort that was put into her by the staff non-commissioned officers who brought her up.
“I always told myself that if I got myself promoted to staff NCO that I would put in what I got from my staff NCOs,” she said.
Now in a leadership position herself, Blanks is working to keep up with the Marines coming in behind her. The next generation has been giving her the experience she wanted in a career.
“It keeps me on my toes,” she said.
Giving back to the community outside the installation’s perimeter is critical, Blanks said, to ensure MCLB Albany remains relevant.
“I encounter locals that don’t even know there is a military installation here,” she said. “The Independence Day celebration will be the first time they are here, and they have lived here their whole lives.”
“It is important to give back for that reason. People should know we are here all year long,” Blanks added.
Blanks suggests to new Marines that they come into the fold with an open mind. There are many opportunities to succeed.
“And come in ready to be a team player,” she said. “It is a team; it is not just you.”
Her goal is to finish her education, and seek opportunities with the State Department in order to work with other branches of the military.
“My mindset is to re-enlist until the Marine Corps decides not to take me,” Blanks said.